It had only been a few weeks since our daughter was born. Between feeling exhausted, sleep deprived and always hungry, I also felt like there were two strangers in my bed. First, the baby herself. And second, the husband. I am sure he must have felt the same too. Because for many weeks to come we were going to be less of each other's friends and more of a parent to our child. Babies change everything. Your heart, your mind, your bed, your house, your priorities, your marriage. They bring joy and they also bring chaos.
Before our daughter was born, marriage to me had a different meaning. We were like live-in partners. Doing our own thing while still sharing our lives. There was love, there was space, there was trust, there was respect, in that order probably. We were still living our single lives, together. Sometimes, the fights were trivial but in that phase they seemed mighty; choice of cutlery, colours of the curtains, who sleeps on which side of the bed or who gets to hold the remote. These counted as serious matters.
And then, we became parents.
For the first few months, we were glad that we had curtains, we got some sleep and we didn't really care about the remote. We were both constantly giddy in this 360-degree flip of our lives. Babies test everything; your patience, your anger, your love, your respect for each other. And that's when chaos begins. Sleep deprivation drives you insane. The pressure of selfless love makes you crumble. You are sort of always coping. Trying to understand your new avatars while looking after a newborn. Because now suddenly everything becomes about the baby or that's what we think. And in this insanity and chaos, ungrateful words come out.
That's when marriage enters a new phase. It doesn't begin to grow old, it starts to grow up. Here, respect for each other becomes more important than love. You can fall in and out of love, but when you fall out of respect, you never really fall in again. There is no space for blame games here. Yes, there will be meltdowns. Yes, there will be I-haven't-had-a-break-in-months but in the end the wheels of the bus must go round and round. Appreciation becomes a new form of communication. Saying that you understand how tough it must be to give up your job to stay home full time, is far more important than saying the three taken-for-granted words. Saying that you understand how tough it must be to miss one of your daughter's early milestones because you couldn't make it on time is more important than sulking or arguing over it.
In this phase, it's never about you or him or the baby, it's about 'us', it's about being a family that gives all three a sense of security and togetherness. And that's what memories are made of. Because those memories make a marriage more beautiful. That's why, once in a while, no matter how tough your day was, it's important to come back home and tell each other that you are doing a fabulous job.